Memoirs, Part 2
Hey folks. Gee, if we have an Indian Summer, we’re having it now. Fifty-seven degrees at 10 a.m. I love it. Wish it would last all winter. But we all know better now, don’t we? By the time you read this it’ll most likely have snowed, which I hate now but loved as a lad. Hey, big money shoveling snow.
But I’m digressing, ’cause I was past all that at the age of 17, ’cause that was the year I discovered speed. I used to hang out at this café-type place called the Bramhall Spa. Long gone now, but at the time the folks there changed my life. And oh boy, what a change it was.
I started shooting speed there. I turned into a “speed freak” — that’s what we were known as. And for a long while I just couldn’t seem to get enough.
Now, it was an expensive habit. What happened was we kind of formed little gangs and we’d all share whatever speed we could muster up. Where it came from was actually Canada. Montreal, exactly. And we knew the folks that were making the trips up there and the time they’d return, so we’d be all ready.
I should call these my Jane years. We never did go out together, technically, but we did have love for each other. And speed. We were inseparable for years, until she went to the slam and so did I. I didn’t go for drugs, though I probably should have. No, I went to the county jail for something I didn’t do.
I was sitting on Congress Street, on what was known as “Hippy Hill,” on Longfellow Square, and all a sudden some guy’s screaming at me: “You’re the one! You did it!” I had no idea who he was or what he meant. Next thing I know I’m in jail for armed robbery. Completely innocent. I ended up spending the next four months in the old county jail. It’s gone now.
Boy, it really sucked being in jail, especially since I was innocent. Ironic, after all the things I had done. I loved burglaries. Sometimes three or four a day. Homes during the day, businesses at night. Me and a fella named Gary. We were ballsy. Walking up to an apartment, knocking. No answer — kick in the door.
So anyways, finally the witness realizes he’s made a very big mistake and I get released. But it sure didn’t stop my criminal actions. Before I got out I was doing B&E’s only long enough to buy more speed. But when I get out, things happen quickly. I get a girl pregnant. We get married. I figure it’s the right thing to do. But our marriage don’t last long, and my poor daughter grows up not knowing me.
A big reason for that was my pal Al Smith. We decide out of the clear blue sky to go out West. I mean, one night we are drinking some beer and I don’t know whose idea, but the next morning we’re on the road for California.
Oh, I forgot to mention, by the way, I had just enjoyed a stay at the Men’s Correctional Center, known as Windham. And when we booked it I was on parole. Kind of stupid of me, really. They actually paid my tuition to University of Maine. I took the wrong courses, though. So I was quitting that too.
But the excitement of hitching out West was overpowering. I had traveled before, even gone to Florida the year before, so that didn’t scare me. And I knew upon return I was gonna be popped for parole violation, but it just seemed so much fun at the time I couldn’t resist. And we did have a good time. We was very lucky. Got some good rides, met some good folks, saw America.
Made it to Frisco, and the fun really came in. You kinda have to visit San Fran — one of the most visited cities in the world. After being there I could see why. Christ, I ended up staying for two years, living in a place called the Tenderloin. Always something happening in that town. Ran into three shootouts my first two weeks there. But it wasn’t all bad.
Sometimes we’d stay on the beach just for the hell of it. Cold water, though. And of course we had to visit Alcatraz. Got drunk on Al Capone’s cell. Not much fishing there. Just sharks off the piers. Got to go visit Patty Hearst’s trial. Tried to pick up her sister, even. No way. Met F. Lee Bailey and a ton of other famous people. But that was just the first visit to Frisco.
I’ll tell you, there ain’t nothing as nice as waking up and greeting the day on Market Street on an April morn in San Fran. Boy, I could go on and on about my time in that town. But eventually I left.
For some reason I took the long way up through the Great Northwest, and got picked up by someone with a great job offer: planting trees, of all things. I got to see a lot of the Rocky Mountains on that little expedition. Worked like a dog, but my time off was outstanding. Sometimes I’d pan for gold. Cold water again, and I didn’t find a nugget.
I did explore Yellowstone Park and found the beauty of hot springs. There’s a bunch of them out West. I’d plant trees all day and hit the hot pools in the night. Great life if you work hard. Met a girl named Joe. Turned into my next love of my life. She was so beautiful. Broke my heart when she left me. Not that I was lonely. Girls love tree planters.
I eventually came back home. I missed Maine. I came back to create a ton of mischief. Sorry, you’ll have to wait for next issue to see what that was. But I will say this: My next act was very exciting.
And one last thing. I’ve not mentioned the entertainment biz. During my speed days and traveling it was music. Stereos. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The Beatles. All sort of music. It was our world. Bob Dylan. Me and Jerry Conley going to our first concert. Steppenwolf. Can’t forget it. The Doors. Best music in history. Hard to explain, but it was our thing, as they say. Jefferson Airplane. I could go on and on. But I just kinda wanta give you a feeling for the moment.